Supernova

Directed by Thomas Lee (really Walter Hill)
Starring: James Spader, Angela Bassett, Peter Facinelli, Lou Diamond Phillips, Robin Tunney, Wilson Cruz, Robert Forster.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and sensuality/nudity.

Review by Matt Heffernan
January 15, 2000

When a director wants to disown a film (usually because the final cut was made against his intention), he'll use the name "Alan (or Allen) Smithee" in the credits. In a remarkable case of double irony, Arthur Hiller made a film called An Alan Smithee Film about a director actually named Alan Smithee (Eric Idle) who wanted to disown his film. Hiller's film turned out so bad after post-production, that it actually became "an Alan Smithee film." Another case has happened here, where Walter Hill (48 HRS., Last Man Standing) is apparently so unhappy with his latest work, Supernova, that he wants to be credited as "Thomas Lee." Now, we will discuss why this film deserves the Alan Smithee treatment, if not in name.

Some time in the distant future, the crew of the Nightingale zaps back and forth through the universe, administering emergency health care. They receive a distress signal from the Titan mining operation, and get there in light speed. During the voyage, Captain Marley (Robert Forster) is killed, leaving the new commander, Nick Vanzant (James Spader), in charge.

It turns out that there is only one survivor from the Titan: Troy Larson (Peter Facinelli), who boards the Nightingale on a shuttlecraft. Paramedic Yerzy Penalosa (Lou Diamond Phillips) finds a strange, alluring, purple object on the shuttle, and brings it to the ship's doctor: Kaela Evers (Angela Bassett). She examines it with the ship's computer, and finds that it contains ninth-dimensional matter (!) that will cause another Big Bang when it makes contact with plain old three-dimensional matter (!!) and start evolution all over again by recycling all organic material on Earth (!!!!). She believes that Troy wants this to happen, so she must rid the ship of this object and Troy in order to save the universe (I can hear the pipe organ sting right now).

The description of this film's plot may sound stupid, but it must be seen to fully appreciate its profound inanity. However, wait until this one plays on late-night cable, where it should be well before the end of the year. The story was co-written by William Malone, the auteur who brought us the rapier wit of Universal Soldier: The Return, which should explain some things. Throw in flashbacks from Phillips' Bats, and this film doesn't seem so bad. At least MGM threw a decent amount of money into it, but they're going to need the cash from The World Is Not Enough to pay off this one.

Obviously, Hill must have gone through some travails while making this film, but I feel most sorry for the actors. Spader now has to add Supernova to his résumé under "Science Fiction" along with Stargate. And I hope that Bassett made enough money from this to be in more films like Boyz N the Hood and Malcolm X. None of them seem to care at all about what they are doing here. Spader is even more monotone than usual, if you can believe that.

I suppose if you like watching PG-13 sex in zero gravity, and you think lines like "smarter than God, but a lot less nice" are amazingly deep, then maybe this one's for you. If you are also fond of robots that dress up like World War I pilots and limp on purpose, then by all means spend your precious $8.00 on this "entertainment." For now, the rest of us will just have to pass.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Supernova (2000)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Supernova (2000) -- VHS
Supernova (2000) -- DVD


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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan